What can you tell us about the origins of your story, “The Last Supper?”
My mind is often drawn to the extremes, and when it comes to a given fantasy trope or science-fictional conceit, I often think of the first or last person to experience such a situation. Those thought experiments don’t always become stories, but sometimes they do—as with my short story “The Last Man On the Moon,” written for Peter Crowther’s anthology Moon Shots. Rather than focus on the first man on the Moon, I thought—what must it be like for the last man to have visited the Moon, once that visit is over? And since I’ve written so many zombie stories, it was inevitable I’d write about a zombie at the end of things. That is—what happens after the last human is gone, and all that remains in the world for the undead is hunger?
We see the story from the point of view from the zombie, Walter, and I’m reminded a little of Lovecraft’s famous story, “The Outsider.” Was this story an influence, or were there other influences?
I’m honored that anything I’ve written would remind anyone of Lovecraft, but alas, no, “The Outsider” wasn’t in the back of my mind as I wrote “The Last Supper.” However, since I first encountered Lovecraft in my teens, and had probably devoured everything the man had written by my mid-’20s, his work was added early to the compost heap from which all of my stories come. So if you say touches of this story are there, who’s to say that it’s not present somehow, without me even being conscious of it?
Zombie fiction often doubles as a form of social commentary. In this story, we follow Walter, who is driven to eat, even at the cost of his existence; do you see parallels in the way we live our everyday lives?
I did not consciously intend social commentary. What I wanted to do was convey to the reader as truthfully as possible what it would feel like to live through the events of my story. I intended things to be taken for what they are, and not as metaphors. As Freud (perhaps apocryphally) said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a zombie is just a zombie. But as with your feeling that Lovecraft is hiding beneath the surface of my tale, if you choose to see a high moral purpose hidden here, I won’t stop you.
What do you have in your zombie survival kit? Any plans in case the dead rise up again?
Now that I’m living in the wilds of West Virginia, my arsenal contains a couple of tools I never thought I’d own back when I was growing up in an apartment building on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn—a chainsaw and a 12-gauge shotgun. And since my neighbors are either similarly or better armed, in the event of a zombie uprising, I’m staying right here!
Lastly, what do you have coming up that we should be looking forward to?
My next short story—a sequel of sorts to Saki’s “The Open Window”—will appear in the anthology The Monkey’s Other Paw: Revived Classic Stories of Dread and the Dead, edited by Luis Ortiz, followed quickly by a tale in Pete Crowther’s magazine Postscripts.